Wednesday, December 22, 2010

It's all about the Education ...

As I am cleaning off my desk, working through emails, reading articles that I haven't had time to look over and basically winding down before a few days off, I keep running into a common theme: if we in rural America are to be able to compete on a global level, we must become lifelong learners. This isn't a great epiphany and it doesn't immediately create jobs or put money in our coffers but I believe it is one of the few absolute truths that will stand the test of time for our generation.

During the times of rapid economic expansion that occurred after WWII and for many decades that followed, it was possible to leave school, take a job, have a family, buy a house, have children, buy a car,then retire 35 years later, with a pension provided by your company. You could probably do this without ever reading anything more than the daily news. It was almost an unwritten contract that if you were loyal to your employer, then they would take care of you. My, how times have changed.

Less and less companies offer a pension, even if you stay with them your entire career (that is if they stay in business). Most of us are going to face not only multiple job changes but multiple career changes. The only way to survive in this environment is to be adaptable and be willing an able to learn.

That takes me to the real meat of this post: we have 30+% of our population in Stokes County that have less than a High School diploma. We have less than 50% of the state average number of residents with a college degree. We have a significant portion of students leaving school each year without a diploma and this number is not shrinking. It scares me to think about what life will hold for many of these young people. Most will be faced with a life of low wage jobs and little chance of advancement.

OK, so that is enough of a downer for one post. There is light on the horizon. I am attaching a link to Tech Quarterly, a magazine produced by Forsyth Technical Community College. Please go to pages 23-4 and read the article on Paul Kindley, Adult Literacy Coordinator for Stokes County. I have had the pleasure of working with Paul occasionally during the past several months and he is as dedicated a person as I know. With people of this caliber, who are pushing to improve the educational attainment of our citizens, there is hope. If you see Paul or his brethren in the educational field this holiday season, stop to say hello and thank them for the jobs they are doing.

I think they are our best hope for the future!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Local Food as a hope for economic prosperity

For the last month, I have been working on grants that in my opinion can lead to opportunity and even prosperity for rural Stokes County. If successful, these grants will provide funding to create a replicable system that allows four local, regional food systems to create economies of scale and logistic capabilities that will allow them to better compete with a huge, government subsidized food system (.62 of each dollar of food income is derived from government subsidizes.) This is a system that is based on low energy costs (just saw and article that projected gas above $3/gal by Christmas, not exactly cheap)and mass production of food stuffs. To help make my point, here is a link to a very interesting video. This is an eleven year old young man that speaks volumes:

If we are successful, food can be produced locally and sold to a large and rapidly growing population across the Piedmont of North Carolina. This can lead to jobs and help keep more of our land in crop production. Food can be harvested and in your home within 24-48 hours. You can actually know the farmers that are growing it, where it is being grown and when it left the field. This is quite different than the 2 weeks+ that we currently see. There are many details to be worked out, we need more farmers, we need more variety, we need processing facilities for overflow, we need to expand our growing season and much more.

The second grant addresses another need. The need to add new farmers and help our youth procure a future. In Stokes County, the average age of our farmers is 58. They show an average net income of $3,000/yr. It isn't hard to understand why our children are leaving to receive an education and not coming home. I gave seerious thought to having a career in farming as I grew up. I just couldn't make the numbers work. We hope to create an educational facility in Stokes County that will allow our youth and displaced workers to learn sustainable, intensive agricultural practices that can mean a reasonable wage for their efforts. It will include profit models and plans for multiple income streams, using every available sq ft of land to produce income. This plan plays to two strengths we already have in our county: a strong farming heritage and available land.

This is not an answer to all our problems but I think it is a start. If we play to our strengths, create small businesses, called farms it becomes one step of many. Our Economic Development Commission's plan of work depends on paying attention to our local businesses, helping create new ones and building an economy that is sustainable for the long term. The local food program has a chance to be an important tool in our arsenal. Wish us luck!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Support your local area stores during the Holidays

Feeling a little rushed, tired of all the ads from the big box stores: buy more, buy now, buy bigger. Maybe it is time to step back and think about staying closer to home and help support your local shops! Below is a list of ideas picked up from the King Chamber of Commerce Monday Minute. These are just a few of the local area shops that can provide you with unique ideas for your family, friends, children and anyone else on your shopping list. Lets make it fun, after looking at this short list, try to think of three more local shops that can provide fun, and diversity for a gift to someone you love!
2010 Christmas Shopping Guide


That’s right-it’s time to grab the tape and paper, wrap up those special gifts and attach the fluffy bows! But if you are caught in the “what to buy” frenzy, we have timely suggestions aplenty.

Those animal lovers still on your list will find Polar Bear Poinsettias hard to resist. Mitchell’s Nursery and Greenhouse has these lovely white blooms in special packaging and a portion of every purchase will be donated to Polar Bears International, an organization dedicated to the worldwide conservation of the polar bear.
Mitchell’s Nursery & Greenhouse, Inc. - 1088 West Dalton Road, King, NC 336-983-4107

For that hard-to-please guy, we suggest this special option: A Schrade Collector Knife, “Tobacco Edition”. Gentry’s Store now has these knives and other great gift ideas in stock.
Gentry’s Store -117 South Main Street, King, NC 336-983-3440

Hand made pewter and blown glass ornaments, along with lovely art and framing, too; the folks at Hampton House Art and Framing can certainly help you. Hampton House also has the popular soap rocks which make very unique stocking stuffers.
Hampton House Art and Framing, Inc.- 613-A East King Street, King, NC 336-983-6688

Something that’s useful and practical may be just the ticket; LTD Farm & Garden has clothes to protect you in the woodiest thicket. For hunting, for working and general warm outdoor wear, LTD’s new line of affordable Key Clothing is the perfect idea for many. Check out the new arrivals and the variety of unique gifts available at LTD.
LTD Farm & Garden- 931 Meadowbrook Drive, King, NC 336-983-4331

Want to pamper someone and give them something for comfort and ease? A holiday package gift certificate from Serene Massage Therapy is sure to please. The special includes warm paraffin dip for hands and feet, warm therapy for the spine and a 30, 60 or 90 minute massage.
Serene Massage Therapy -223 Ingram Drive, King, NC 336-391-0760

Another practical idea and one that could save trouble: Budget Termite and Pest Control, Inc. is offering special rates with a money-saving double! Winter rates: real estate termite inspection-$49.00, radon test-$95.00 or $124.00 for both.
Budget Termite and Pest Control, Inc. 336-985-0808

Does Christmas fill you with nostalgia and bring memories flooding in? TNT Supplies suggests a special decoration that is reminiscent of the way things could have been. TNT Supplies has tobacco stick barn stars in two sizes complete with berry garland and lights.
TNT Supplies-Colony Centre Shopping Centre, King, NC 336-283-0308

Don’t forget about the gift basket that can be custom made for you. Venie Rose Florist will design it with lots of items or just a few. They are offering 10% off a special basket order from now until December 23 if you tell them you saw it in Monday Minute.
Venie Rose Florist-225 East King Street, King, NC 336-983-0045

Paintings of our agricultural past and the Dairi-O, too: both are waiting at Tim Bruce Art Gallery for you. Prints are still available on most of the “ghost series” as well as on several renditions of Pilot Mountain and two new releases.
Tim Bruce Art Gallery-401 East King Street, King, NC 336-985-610
Perhaps you are filled with joy and happiness this holiday season and feel as those you could dance the night away - Then you may be interested in having the younger ones learn the perfect steps! Snowflake classes are being offered January 15 – February 26 for 3, 4 and 5 years olds – the classes last for six weeks. (Creative Movement – Acrobatics – Ballet) – The cost for each class is $43.00. Gift Certificates are available.
Miss Joyce Dance Studio – 121 E. Dalton Street, King, NC 336-983-9458